Tourist Faux Pas To Avoid in Europe

Generally speaking, being called a “tourist” can feel a lot like an insult. It’s almost like someone is telling you, “You’re sticking out like a sore thumb” by dressing, speaking or doing something no local would ever dare. While a traveling family anywhere may seem like a red flag, try to avoid these tourist faux pas on your next family vacation to Europe.

Leaving a large tip in London, England, or really anywhere in England, is a dead giveaway you’re not from around here. Americans tend to tip on nearly all customer service transactions from haircuts and restaurants to delivery services and cab rides. It’s not only nice: It’s expected and often mandatory. This is not the case all over the world. Before traveling abroad, read up on the best tipping practices and save your family some trouble while dining out in Europe.

You don’t want to be rude and stiff locals for their services, but you also don’t want to go broke dolling out unappreciated and unexpected tips left and right. Most dining establishments in Europe add on a service charge of some sort and this charge, included in the bill, goes toward staff pay.

While in Europe, don’t look high and low for a large breakfast, especially not in Italy. On some of the more touristy restaurant’s menus, guests will find something with “American” in the title, portioned much larger than anything authentic Italians would eat and usually consisting of meat, bread and potatoes. Avoid the siren call of the familiar option and opt for something more authentically Italian, something small, light, maybe even a pastry and espresso — you’ll be stopping for gelato soon enough anyway.

Espresso Italy

© Thomas Dutour |

Speaking of coffee, as a temporary local you’ll have to wean off your usual 16-ounce coffee in the morning, as espressos and cappuccinos are the local go-to beverages.

While in Italy, especially during the warmer months, locals can usually spot a tourist by the bright white of their skin. If you’re lighter skinned and coming off a long winter in the United States, the jig is up and the locals can spot you a mile away. Literally. Wear sunscreen and protect your skin, but don’t be afraid to let the kids run around, spend some time outdoors and get a little vitamin D.

Moving on to Italy’s cousin, Spain, your pace can be a dead giveaway. If you enjoy lunch at noon on the dot, you’re a classic tourist. Stop at a local store and stock up on snacks for the kids between your main meals. Most Spanish residents get a much later start to their day than Americans.

Feel free to sleep in and take the day at an easy pace, as you’re not going to find many restaurants open before 1–2 p.m. or dinner served earlier than 7 p.m. — unless of course you’re a tourist.